Fire millage: Ishpeming seeks voter approval to upgrade aging firetruck

Pictured is a demonstration model of the Sutphen SP 70 Aerial Platform firetruck that visited the city of Ishpeming recently. The city is asking voters for millage to purchase a truck with similar specifications. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — The City of Ishpeming will ask voters for permission to replace the 22-year-old pumper firetruck in its fleet with a new ladder firetruck on Tuesday.

The city is seeking a fire equipment millage not to exceed .90 mill to purchase the truck using general obligation unlimited tax bonds payable over a period not to exceed 12 years. According to ballot language, the estimated millage to be levied in 2017 is 0.90 mill or 90 cents per $1,000 of taxable value. The estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bond is .85 mill or 85 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

In addition to the 75-foot aerial ladder, the new fire truck would include a water pump, a minimum 500-gallon water tank, the ability to carry a minimum of 1,000 feet of 4-inch diameter hose and 115 feet of ground ladders, Anderson said.

The Ishpeming Fire Department currently uses a 1995 pumper truck and a 2005 pumper truck, Fire Chief Ed Anderson said. The new truck would give the volunteer fire department safer access to buildings in case of a fire or other emergency, Anderson said.

“It multiplies our manpower,” Anderson said. “It gives us capabilities we don’t have now to get on larger roofs even two story buildings in the city. Right now, it’s just dangerous. The pumper, the aerial we are looking for — it’s not really an additional. It’s a replacement for a 22-year-old truck, but we are going to keep that truck because its much more valuable to the city than if we turned it in. We’d virtually get nothing for it.”

Anderson said the older equipment becomes less and less reliable and harder to maintain.

“Trucks when they start getting 20-plus years old, parts are starting to get to be an issue for that truck.” Anderson said. “We keep them up as well as we can, but we need to keep the trucks on a replacement schedule and we feel — the fire department feels –that this is the best truck for the city and the firefighters. We have looked at all the trucks, and we feel this is the best.”

City Manager Mark Slown said the millage is not being asked for lightly and that the voters will make the ultimate decision.

“We can’t tell the voters how to vote, and we are not allowed by law to try to persuade them. We can present to them facts,” Slown said. “Our motivation is, in a word, safety. This truck will be better for the community, safer for the community, safer for the firefighters, better firefighting for the public for their property protection and safety of lives. The trucks’ reliability is critical to timely response to emergency situations.”

In a July 29 newsletter to Ishpeming residents, Slown said if the millage is not approved by voters, the city will have a few other alternatives.

“If the ballot proposal fails, city council will consider alternative means to generate the funds needed to pay for the new fire truck,” the newsletter states. “One alternative means could be to cut other services. Another alternative would be for council to approve a library millage, or other city council authorized tax increase. Alternatively, the city council could try the bond proposal again or cancel the purchase.”

City officials have looked at all the options available and decided a millage would be the most viable, the newsletter states.

“Cutting other expenses sufficiently to purchase the $850,000 truck and associated equipment, would result in a loss of police, public works, library, or other services,” the newsletter states. “The city council has considered alternatives in detail and decided that the bond proposal was the best way forward.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.